Over the years, tacos -- which are relatively inexpensive to prepare -- have become a fast-food staple at national chains such as Taco Bell (which started in the early 1960s when a former Marine, Glen Bell, began selling tacos from his hot-dog stand) and local drive-ins like the 47-year-old Humdinger Drive-In (with its vintage sign at right) at 2504 E. Ninth St., which sells tacos by the bag (you can get a dozen for $11.25).
Oh yes, there are terrific tacos all over town, but after taking a taco tour, Fat City's Jonathan Bender and Charles Ferruzza settled on this group of ten as the best cheap tacos in town:
10. Fric & Frac,
1700 W. 39th St. For more than three decades, patrons have stopped in
this 39th Street saloon for tacos. They're filling and cheap -- enough
9. La Chiquita, 265 N. Seventh St., Kansas City, Kansas. The $1.25 tacos come from a sidewalk window in a squat brick building. A modest, albeit salty, good cheap taco that's available with carne asada or barbacoa (the latter only offered on Fridays and Saturdays).
8. El Pulgarcito, 5921 Merriam Dr. in Merriam. The carne asada is tender and tastes of the grill. These look and feel homemade -- the right introductory taco ($1.75) for the uninitiated.
7. Charritos Taqueria, 3831 Independence Ave. Skirt steak and roasted cactus spill out of the Tacos Aztecas ($1.85), while a salsa made with poblano peppers adds a nice bit of heat. The amount of filling almost guarantees the use of a fork.
6. Nara, 1617 Main. This trendy Japanese robata grill and sushi bistro may seem an unlikely place to find tacos, but during happy hour (3-7 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 3-6 p.m. Friday and 4-6 p.m. Saturday; 10 p.m.-closing Monday through Saturday), the fish tacos are a very happy discovery. Crispy wonton shells are filled with flaky white fish, mango slaw and "dynamite sauce" made with mayonnaise and hot chili sauce.
5. Veracruz, 731 Minnesota Ave., Kansas City,
Kansas. With tax, four tacos came to $4.07 -- most on the whiteboard
menu outside were 89 cents. The barbacoa was delicate, sitting on a
combination of queso blanco, shredded lettuce and diced tomatoes inside
a white corn tortilla. For sheer value, this is a winner.
4. Bichelmeyer Meats, 704 Cheyenne Ave., Kansas
City, Kansas. Fresh, hot and directly next to the 60-foot meat counter
-- this is our kind of retail sample (4 for $6). Peppery juice drips
from the lengua (tongue) and asada (steak). Only sold on Saturdays.
1360 Walnut. Chef Rob Dalzell's frozen yogurt shop in the Power &
Light District offers delicious Korean tacos -- three for two bucks --
during the week. There are pork, chicken and short rib versions --
pictured at right -- served in a soft tortilla wrapper with
onion-cilantro relish and house-made kimchi.
4019 Pennsylvania. Simple but well prepared. The strongest flavors are
the chopped onion and cilantro. Chicken and ground beef tacos
(regularly $1.75) are a steal on Tuesdays at $1 each.
1. El Camino Real, 903 N. Seventh St., Kansas City,
Kansas. The ultimate local taco experience, this storefront restaurant
offers the real thing. In fact, if you sit up front, near the big
window (with a view of gamblers heading up the street to the 7th Street
Casino), you can watch one of the employees mixing up the masa and
making fresh corn tortillas, which are tossed on the grill. The tacos
are $1.50 each and fantastic. The selection includes beef tongue,
chorizo, fish, carne asada, a poblano chile-and-cheese, and carne
asada. The tacos are served with small bowls of chopped fresh cilantro,
onion, pico de gallo and a very hot salsa. A large picture of the image
of Our Lady of Guadalupe looks down at all the diners, which adds an
even more spiritual quality to a heavenly culinary experience.